Becoming a firefighter means serving your time as a rookie.
Serving as the Captain of a fire department means training rookies to become firefighters. How do you know when they have gone from rookie to firefighter? Are they a fire fighter when they pass FFI, or is it when they come off "proby" or probationary status. When the time set by your department is up, say a year, are they no longer a rookie then? Is it when they put on their navy blue firefighter t-shirts or car plaque on their license plates?
I spend literally hundreds of hours a year training, providing gifts for firefighters that are truly priceless if they accept them. I present them with opportunities like live burns, search and rescue drills, ladders and roof ops, RIT training, SCBA training, every chance for them to gain confidence that their bunker gear will protect them, their packs will keep them breathing, their equipment will be working, their radios will transmit a MAYDAY or call for help should they need it. All they need to do is open the gift. Take the training seriously, gain the experience live burns can offer in dealing with the heat, zero visibility, physical endurance of crawling, searching blind with tools in one hand, charged handline in the other ever aware of changing conditions. Learn their fire trucks, equipment locations, how to use the equipment, when to use the tools and which ones to choose. Be as comfortable breathing in your SCBA mask as without it. Know that you and your fellow firefighters can deploy and flake out proper size hose lines, hook up hydrants and be confident that your pump operator will not fail you.
Know without a doubt, that your Fire Officers are trained, experienced and always learning as you are, to keep you safe, follow accountability and command structures, and will never leave you behind. These are the gifts I bring to my rookies.
Today, I got a gift back from two of my rookies. Structure fire, command Chief on location reports heavy smoke showing, flames from the laundry room. Our engine was first due and we arrived first on location. Armed with an 1 3/4" handline, thermal imaging camera, bunker gear in place, SCBA masks on, a little bit of confidence from accepting the gifts offered above, they entered the house-crawled under the smoke-found the fire and put those flames out. Additional crews arrived quickly, but they already had the fire knocked down. Granted it wasn't the biggest structure fire, not the hottest and there wasn't alot of extension. But then, maybe that's because they got the job done, and done right. I was a very proud Captain out there today, watching them as they took off their packs, checked the equipment, re-packed the hose as though they had been doing it for years. Helluva job guys, a notch on your helmet. A notch on mine.
New Years Day (was that just 10 days ago!) I wrote a blog about these two firefighters. They were just rookies then.
New Years Day Firefighter Blog: Firefighter Rookies
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